From the Fields® - September 7, 2016

By Joe Colace, Imperial County diversified grower

For the lower desert, there is not a lot that is taking place over the last couple months because we are in the hottest time of the year. But we have begun the lemon harvest, which is one of the early harvests for the new fall season. That is progressing nicely. It is a crop that looks very similar to a year ago.

We are in the beginning stages of growing the fall melons. Also, broccoli and cauliflower transplants are just starting to go in. Most of the activity taking place right now is ground preparation and early planting. We have had very little summer rain. Most of the monsoons have stayed in eastern and central Arizona, so everyone seems to be ahead of schedule for the upcoming season.

By John Vevoda, Humboldt County dairy farmer

We're trying to get ready for winter. The pasture is starting to get shorter. In organic, we have to pasture our cows.

The field corn is looking good for silage. Looks like it's going to be a good crop this year. It's organic, so you can't spray, but it looks like there's no real pests in them this year. Harvest is probably another three or four weeks out.

We're also getting ready to do our last cuttings of grass silage. Most of us have wrapped up the grass clover silage for the year. Some guys might get one more cutting.

Irrigation is coming to a close here soon, because temperatures have been down in the 50s in the morning. The grass is going to stop growing here shortly. The pastures are good this year. They dried up a little bit early because we didn't get any late rains. Prior to that, we had plenty of rain during the winter, and in the springtime we had good growth. It was a much more positive grass year this year, compared to last year.

Milk production was slow in the beginning of the year, but I think most guys had pretty good production from their pastures this year. Right now, it's starting to slow down because it's fall.

In this area, we depend a lot on our grass rather than hay, silage and grain. I think for the most part, the majority of us had a good year.

On the organic side, we're all bracing to get price cuts. There's too much milk out there now. There was a shortage and now there's an oversupply. Demand has flattened out, but some of it has to do with conventional milk prices being so low.

Because of that, we're starting to pull our horns in. Nobody is buying any new equipment. Nobody is making any huge investments in their operation. We're all just bracing to see what's going to take place.

By Henry Giacomini, Shasta County beef producer

We had a great spring in terms of moisture. It kicked things off and pushed us into summer, especially in the rangeland, to where we had a pretty good year. The cows look to be in good condition; the calves look a little heavier. We won't know for sure until we bring them home and wean them, but all in all, on rangelands it was a good summer for us.

On irrigated pastures, it was a better year because of water availability. We had more surface water, so it kept those costs lower, and production is good. The haying is done and things are slow right now. We will pick it up again at the end of summer and it will get very busy for us.

The downside is that cattle prices are down. I would say that calves are bringing as much as a thousand dollars less than they were two years ago. That is going to make a big difference when it is all said and done.

Everyone is going to have to deal with, how are we going to move forward in this kind of a price cycle? We know it isn't going to be short-lived. It is likely to be this way, and could even get worse.

The hay market is also way down. We are anticipating being able to acquire hay for the winter at pretty reasonable prices. On the other hand, if you are a hay grower trying to make a profit, I don't think that is working out very well. And there is a lot of hay produced up here.

By Bruce Fry, San Joaquin County winegrape grower

We have finished harvest of four varieties so far and we are now starting on our red varieties. Timewise, it is about the same as last year. The chardonnay grapes are off about 10 to 15 percent from last year, and some of the other varieties are normal or a little bit above normal. Nothing out of the ordinary. Quality looks good; they are clean and uniform.

Labor is always a problem and it gets worse every year. We have a lot of old-vine zinfandel and we are taking out some of those blocks this year due to labor demands. We will switch over to vines on trellises that can be machine harvested. We are transitioning to maintain the economic viability of that ground. These old-vine grapes are hand harvested and they produce very low tonnage. We can grow red zin on wire and get a lot more tons per acre. The economics really come into play.

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